Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to be able to stand in the House representing my constituents in York South--Weston in reply to the Speech from the Throne, and in particular to speak within the context of those concerns that I think are typical not only of York South--Weston but of constituencies right across this country.
I have the advantage of being able to use the hindsight that comes from the throne speech having been given last week. Having now had the opportunity to talk with and listen to many of my constituents in York South--Weston, I would like to just elaborate on some of their reactions. In doing so, I want to place that in the context of the culture that has been described and the motivation that has been attested to by the previous speaker, to some extent, because I would not like to think that all of the members of the House come here solely to fight the culture of corruption.
We are all here to establish a culture of accountability, and I think that is really what the member was trying to say. In my experience, he has been a very positive and very effective member, particularly on the environment committee. I would like him to know that I hold him in that high regard, and I would like to congratulate him on the positive contributions that he has made. I would not like to think that people would conclude he meant he was here solely to fight corruption, to be sort of the modern day equivalent to the ghostbusters, that there was any magic mechanism that was going to clear some of the problems, environmental, social and economic, for which we are here to find solutions.
I would like to talk about what constituents in York South have indicated are their primary concerns.
There is absolutely no question that the quality of our health care system is foremost and top of mind. There is a higher than average number of constituents in my York South riding who are elderly. Just recently the exposé on care for the elderly has made it graphically and profoundly obvious that we have to do better in the area of looking after the legacy that we have, which is to nurture our elderly, those who have given us the quality of life and the respect that we have internationally, those who have provided us with the example, the symbol of what is important in the world in terms of quality of health. We are falling short in terms of providing that for our elderly.
The throne speech is very dynamic in terms of focusing on our health care system, both reminding us of the shortcomings, the professional shortcomings in terms of our medical professions, as well as reminding us that this is a challenge, top of mind, and that we must mobilize every resource we can. To that end, the Prime Minister did follow through with respect to the $2 billion that is going into improving our health care system. There is more to be done, but that is a concern that has been expressed by my residents in York South, one that I thought I should articulate to the House today.
Also with respect to top of mind issues is this whole issue of jobs and employment. The residents of York South are very representative of the international patterns of immigration--multicultural, ethnic and religious--that have come into our country. York South--Weston is the kind of constituency where we build a cohesive and caring society.
I might say that after 9/11, with a large number of residents coming into York South--Weston from Muslim based countries, we worked together to make sure that in our educational system, in our schools and in our community associations and so on we all would be aware that we indeed are responsible for our neighbours.
Again, the throne speech is a speech that talks about the international transformation that is taking place and how we have to look at the character and nature of our communities. In everything we do and everything we enunciate, we have to remind ourselves that we are responsible, if not for our own human rights, for the human rights of all in our country and in fact in our world.
The throne speech makes a great commitment to that international quality and character of human rights. I think that is what the Prime Minister meant when he said that in some respects we will take the pride that we had back in the Pearsonian and Trudeau days in building that international character, build upon it once more and not only transform our own country in terms of how we feel about it, but take it out beyond our borders.
People are concerned in terms of how we create jobs, how we create employment. Just recently as a result of the throne speech, we have had announcements made with respect to using the sectoral council mechanism, a community based mechanism that involves business, the corporate sector and labour and brings them together in terms of looking at programs whereby we can develop new skills for those who have found themselves displaced in the employment sector. It is to reinvest not only in our young people, which is very important, through our educational system, but also in those who have lost their jobs, to retrain them and bring them back into the mainstream of economic life in a fulfilling and responsive way. The throne speech talks about that. In fact, we have started to act on it in terms of job creation and value added activity in our communities.
Residents of York South--Weston also have talked about the quality of life in our cities. Of course our cities really are the incubators in which all of the very high value added activity in a civic society occurs.
I am very pleased, having been one who has spent the majority of my public life in municipal government, that the throne speech outlines the understanding that the quality of life in civic society really is generated through municipal governments, municipal orders of government across the country, and that it makes a statement, not just of idle faith but of commitment, that the first step, in terms of the GST rebate, will allow the municipalities to make their investments of that money. No longer will it be streamed into a tax stream. It will now be used for reinvestment.
Whether it is through housing initiatives, initiatives for the homeless, or initiatives with respect to investing in capital programs or infrastructure above and beyond the existing programs that have been announced by the government, municipalities can make those decisions. That is very important, because we must not feel, in a paternalistic way, that we understand all the ills of municipalities and that we have to, from the top down, dictate those areas in which they should spend this money that would ordinarily go to the GST. That is a statement of faith that municipalities, in a responsible manner, can reinvest in those things that will add value and quality to life in the cities.
With respect to the kinds of concerns that have been expressed by the people in York South—Weston, we also have looked at the environmental legacy, which just cannot be taken lightly. We look at the environmental legacy, and yes, a minority of scientists think that global warming and the greenhouse effect and so on is not the compelling issue that we should be focusing on, perhaps, but by far the majority in the scientific community feels the opposite way.
The throne speech takes that on as a responsibility: for us to take every initiative we can to deal with that legacy. Not only the people in York South--Weston are concerned about this legacy, but the people across the country are concerned, I think. Be they in rural or urban areas, they are concerned about the implications of environmental degradation.
We hope to invest more as the economy expands. As we have adopted our partnership, building with the cities and the provinces, we hope we can invest in new technologies that add value to economic life, in the kinds of initiatives that my colleague preceding me talked about in terms of innovative environmental technologies and transportation technologies, which not only can be used here in Canada but can be exported and can add value to the transportation sector in terms of jobs and so on. At the same time, they can allow the cities to grow and deal with urban sprawl, environmental degradation and so on.
The throne speech is a true commitment, an act of faith, that we can answer the concerns not only of the people of York South--Weston but of people right across the country and that we can do better in the environmental area.
In terms of Canada's role in the world, coming from a constituency like York South--Weston, which is really a microcosm of constituencies across the country, very diverse in background and so on, these people would want to hear us talk, too, about the kind of world they know so well. They would want us to talk about what that world view looks like to us in terms of government policy and what we intend to do in terms of building a better world, not only here in Canada, but for a world that would reach back to their roots, that would give them the opportunity to say, “Yes, this is a legacy that we bring to this country, but it is one that the collective community all starts to share”.
The people of York South--Weston have asked, “In terms of Canada's role in the world, what does the throne speech say?” Does it match the dreams and aspirations of those people? Does it build on the legacy that past generations in this country have given us? Is it the kind of legacy such that we can look into the future and say that this society we are building, this dynamic society, this transforming society, will be a beacon of hope in a world that appears to offer very little hope for so many people, be they in Africa, in Southeast Asia or in South America and the Caribbean?
The throne speech reminded me of the Pearsonian outlook, in which those of us who were raised through that period of time were so proud of that new nation, Canada, having come out of two world wars and the Korean war, having taken our place in peacekeeping and having led the way in diplomatic initiatives and in the development of countries where the needs were so great. The throne speech to me was not a trip backwards to try to find some nebulous concept that we might be able to just latch our dreams to, but a real solid foundation of accomplishment.
During the tenure of Prime Minister Trudeau we used our diplomatic efforts to reach out to the Chinese and the People's Republic of China. Where would we be today had it not been for those successful outreaches? The United States then came in and we now find ourselves, at the very least, in a very difficult area of the world in terms of North Korea. At least the People's Republic of China is being supportive in terms of contributing to international stability. All of these are foundation blocks of that kind of international outreach work and have been cumulative.
The throne speech talks about that. It talks about an era where we had this evangelical outreach, and I say that in a non-religious sense, of doing more in the world than that which the world had given us. It talks about the creation of a Canada youth corps where we would look at our young people who are educated and concerned environmentally, socially and economically. They are capable. They want to have a role to play in building this country and making this world better. We are going to invest in them, make them our diplomats, and give them the opportunity to go out and represent what Canada really is all about in terms of its quality.
When the people of York South—Weston talk to me about the kind of world that we are building together, they see a role in it for, not only themselves in terms of how they served past generations, but their young people coming into the mainstream of Canadian society and carrying out international roles.
I am proud of the fact that the Prime Minister, at some risk and to some degree of cynicism, invited Bono to talk about our international responsibilities at the convention on that Saturday night. The atmosphere in the Air Canada Centre was electric when Bono reminded us of our responsibilities in terms of building a strong society here and using that to mirror to the international community responsibilities such as the AIDS epidemic, those who are maimed by landmines, and children in hospitals.
That still continues to go on. When we look at the international situation, we can see the responsibility and the accountability that we have, to be not only as good as we can, but to be the best so that we can continue to build a strong national and international community.
All these things are what I feel the people of York--South Weston want to see articulated, represented and characterized in a progressive and positive way. There is so much to do. The throne speech is merely a template, a philosophical concept right now in terms of what we stand for. Our budgets and actions will be the testimony to whether we are serious. This member, along with, I believe, the members of the House, is serious about taking the philosophy of the throne speech and implementing it into concrete action.